A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
I start the Guardian Weekend Magazine in the same way I do my marking; at the back. Normally turning straight to Clive James’ weekly column, half checking to see if he’s still alive and half hoping to be amused. This week I was intercepted by a piece from Harry Benson, reflecting on a photo he took of Trump back in the 1980s. Trump, Trump, Trump, everywhere. On I go to Clive James and hurrah, he is – he hopes- returning next week following some various pieces of medical equipment being inserted into his rectum. I briefly think ‘I hope you do come back, Clive’ and then move on effortlessly to the front of the magazine. Tim Dowling’s weekly column is something of an occasional read. Today he seems to announce that his wife has decided they should split up. I re-read the column twice and I’m still not sure whether he’s just casually shared a story of his life imploding or not. On I go, past the Amando Iannucci letter to Trump (ugh, more Trump), deciding to save it for later. Real life is now beyond anything Iannucci – creator of Veep and The Thick of It – can think of. On to Blind Date with the easy on the eye paralegal, Myles and the geeky looking Oliver. The date doesn’t seem to go well (7 from Myles and 6 from Oliver) with Oliver dropping the bombshell on one thing that he wish he’d changed about the evening with the response: ‘hearing about the guy he’s dating (and how bad it is). So, that would be the newly single Myles this Saturday.
Drama, clusterfucks and personal implosions, browsed, responded to and moved on. It’s the pattern of life. I watched the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States yesterday and expected it to be rather grim. It surpassed my expectations for the doom, arrogance and naked nationalism of a speech that seemed to be calculated to be the diametric opposite to FDRs 1933 address. Where as FDR challenged fear; fear as the world inched towards war, fear as so many Americans battled poverty and starvation; Trump invoked and provoked fear, using it as a tool to garner power rather than a force to be challenged. Commentators in live coverage sought to compare the speech with Reagan. It’s true that Reagon’s 1981 inauguration speech would invoke the economic challenges of recent times, and even talked of a ‘crisis’, offering that epoch-defining statement: ‘government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.’ Yet even Reagan matched this stark assessment with both words and tone that offered optimism. The B-movie actor has ultimately been replaced by a reality TV star. The shining city on a hill replaced by a town called Armageddon.
For the so-called liberal-elite, which I as a white European law professor must surely be a conscript of, Trump is a nightmare on custom-made, gold-plated and jewel-encrusted castors, careering across the political stage.
Within hours of being sworn in, climate change was banished from the White House website whilst LGBT rights were purged from the Department of Labor and the White House LGBT rights page vanished. Trump and his administration are moving fast.
For those for whom this extinguishing of rights and truth are cause for horror, not celebration, the stirring of political resistance can be detected. As I write this, I’m watching the marching of women across America, protesting and challenging, and asserting their agency and political power. The rebellion is rising. These women were joined in global solidarity earlier today as women in other nations also protested.
Yet as powerful as these scenes are, as stirred as I am by them, my thoughts turn back to the Guardian magazine. Every ay we consume stories that horrify, shock and outrage us. We turn the page. We flick the channel. We go on. Many of us – like, dare I say it, Trump – may seek to tweet our anger, but how quickly we then move on to the next thing.
The nature and extent to which Trump – and those he bestows power upon – will attack LGBT rights, and broader rights pertaining to gender and sexuality, remains to be seen. Such attacks will not be defeated or resisted in a single day of action. Protests are important but they are not the whole story; protests are the punctuation in our story.
The challenge for all of us who care about LGBT rights and progressive values, diversity and inclusion, is to remember our feelings of fear – feelings so many of us have faced before in our lives – along with the desire to act and keep acting, keep fighting, keep protesting against any attempt to roll back the rights we have fought for, died for, and been beaten for. We deserve nothing less.